Stellar Blade Review: More Than Jiggle

What is it about recent PlayStation exclusive releases? Last year Hogwarts Legacy divided the internet and this year Rise of the Ronin could not avoid some controversy. The latest PS5-exclusive to prove divisive in the lead up to its release on 26th April is Stellar Blade.

A fairly innocuous game when announced a few years ago, it is the design and movement physics of the main character EVE that has sparked conversations – namely when it comes to portraying more realistic representations of female characters in videogames.

We’re not here to pick one side or the other when it comes to Stellar Blade, but it is well worth highlighting that if the main character did not “jiggle” or have the “proportions” that it does, would we actually be talking about this new action adventure RPG?

Either way, it is safe to say that the aesthetics chosen for the game were purposeful by South Korean developer SHIFT UP Corporation, and it’s hard to deny the fact that the elements chosen for EVE will appeal to certain types of gamers.

But is this just a distraction from a good action adventure RPG, or simply an explosive talking point for a middling new AAA title?

We spent some time playing Stellar Blade to find out which.

They know what they’re doing

If you have watched any demo or gameplay footage of Stellar Blade, it is safe to say that the developers have anime-style fan service in mind when it comes to all the slow motion action shots, quick-time events, and cutscenes for this game.

Hell, after crash landing on Earth, which EVE is tasked with reclaiming for humanity from the Naytiba that have infested the planet, there is a slow-mo scene of her emerging from a drop pod in a “skin suit” akin to Ghost in the Shell.

The same goes for EVE’s 7th Airborne Squadron mentor Tachy, who has even more exaggerated “features” than the main protagonist. In fact, we’d categorise it as a K-Pop girl group fan’s dream when it comes to the character designs of this particular game.

Shifting to the world that EVE crash lands on, it has a Soviet era megacity feel to it, albeit a post apocalyptic version of things. The actual environment, ruined buildings, overgrown areas of the city all combine to make an interesting pastiche that warrants exploration.

Whether it rewards is another question, as there is not a great amount of traversal available in this game, as the areas that need to be explored in order to progress in the story line being laid out in a rather linear and uninteresting fashion. It reminds us quite a bit of God of War Ragnarok, where there is a rich environment all around us, but you can’t really interact with it outside of where the developers want you to go.

That said, if you venture from the designated path, you’ll likely encounter more challenging Naytiba, chests that can be unlocked for loot and resources, as well as remnants from the past before the Earth got infested.

While EVE’s mission is fairly singular – reclaim Earth and kill all Naytiba in sight – the story’s lore only deepens through her interactions with other characters like ADAM, a male scavenger who rescues EVE in the opening stanza and pilots a drone that assists her while navigating the post-apocalyptic city.

In terms of story, however, these waters do not run deep, and things feel a little generic. It is not a poor story by any means, but not one that draws you in or warrants sitting through larger sections of dialogue-heavy cutscenes.

Mixed martial arts

Now for the actual important stuff – this is an action adventure RPG after all.

Here the gameplay is solid throughout.

While Stellar Blade borrows some elements of soulslike, such as having base camps as checkpoints throughout the map that serve as save areas, along with allowing EVE to resupply, cash in her gold (in-game currency), redeem skill points, do some training for new skills, or simply rest to replenish health, this still feels like a hack-and-slash style game.

In fact, we could not get Nier: Automata out of our heads the entire time playing the game, with it certainly going for a similar feel, although this title features far more quick-time events and some gratuitous slow-mo. It may also have something to do with the female character designs of both games proving divisive that we leapt to that comparison.

Shifting to the fighting mechanics and Stellar Blade offers a good deal of difficulty throughout, although it is only the battles with elite level Naytiba that will provide a true challenge.

Most of the time when making your way from big battle to big battle, you’ll be hacking away at groups of smaller Naytiba, and it is here that the game’s camera might let you down, as you cannot really cycle through oncoming enemies to target one in particular. Instead the focus feature zeroes in on whatever enemy is closest.

The camera is not dynamic either, so you can simply get outdone by a series of less powerful attacks by being outflanked as blocking is only effective for what is immediately in front of EVE.

Our issues with the camera aside, those aforementioned boss battles are quite satisfying, as the execution of hard earned combos, special moves, and beta skills via the skill tree is a lot of fun.

We also found the fighting system to be quite intuitive too, rewarding a well timed parry by stunning enemies or creating a potential opening for a counterattack. In fact, parrying is one of the key mechanics to the gameplay in Stellar Blade, and often the best way that EVE can deal with being swarmed by enemies or simply taking on a target that may be too powerful.

Added to this was being punished for poorly executed moves, such as the blink, which allows you to dodge incoming heavy attacks. If you get this wrong, or do not get out of the way of an incoming attack with enough space, you can still get hit or take damage.

The fighting mechanics, while very sleek and hyper stylised, still has some ugliness to it, in the best way possible.

Final verdict

As a PS5-exclusive, Stellar Blade is not cheap at R1 499.

While you can see where a lot of that money goes toward, with this game certainly looking and feeling like a AAA title, it simply may not be compelling enough to warrant multiple playthroughs. That might seem like a niche gripe, but given the cost of games right now, if you’re not maximising every cent spent on a new title, it becomes harder to justify or recommend.

As for the question at the beginning of this review on whether the jiggle factor is a distraction or cover up, it is actually something we quickly forgot about after the first elite Naytiba fight, with the acrobatic and dynamic fighting style of EVE being far more compelling.

But yes, there is still lots of “armour” for you to unlock and change up the style of the character.

A nice action adventure RPG, at R1 499, Stellar Blade needs to be a little better to justify picking up at full price right now.




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